We may not be in the same boat, but we are in the same storm
I joke, I am a joker. My sense of humour is questionable and often times, very inappropriate. I make a show of myself most days and when I am not making a show of myself, my darling children do it for me. From being found in compromising positions by the postman to exposing myself to neighbours accidentally, my day to day life can seem like a series of unfortunate yet hilarious events. However, when we peel back the layers, it hasn’t been all peaches and cream. It has been a very tough journey over the past 6 years and it is only recently that I have learned to share that journey with others. In doing so, people have reached out to me and it has been so cathartic.
How it all began…
I want to share with you how our Mammies choir came to be and please know that this content does not contain embarrassing stories of exposure/indecency and mortification. It does however, show the vulnerability of a mother who had to contend with love and loss.
Life seemed perfect. I was happily married, had a gorgeous little boy; then the bottom fell out of my world when my Dad suddenly passed away. My Tom was just four weeks old. Postnatal depression became my new normal. Stumbling through each day, a heavy cloud obscured my vision and my heart felt like it was beating only for my son. In what felt like no time at all, I fell pregnant again and rather than experiencing joy at this news, I felt empty. How was I going to manage another baby when I was so consumed by pain, trauma and sadness? How could I have enough love for another child when Tom had my whole heart?
As the weeks turned to months, the depression worsened and I never felt so lonely, scared and worthless. How could I, a mother, who had so much love for my son, feel nothing for this life growing inside me? How could I, a mother, feel so alone when I was surrounded by love?
As I went through the motions, I learned that there was little in the way of support for mothers in Kilcock so I decided to set up a support group, facilitated by Speak Up Sing Out music school.
The Perfect Fit
Speakup Singout is not just a music school, it is a safe space, it is the community and what it has done is create opportunities for everyone across all ages to come together and be a part of something. It has helped to create relationships, find and develop talents. It has given people a focus, a project, a goal, a direction and a purpose. The different inclusive videos and projects have allowed people to express their creativity, to take part in something that they otherwise would never have dreamed of. The sense of purpose that comes with being a member of SuSo has helped us all get through the past 6 years (and particularly the last year!) with hope, dreams and fulfilment.
For our support group, we would meet once a week for tea, cake and chats. The fear that gripped me on that first morning nearly made me run for the hills, but forcing myself to take that step and reach out, I plastered a smile on my face and open the doors of the SuSo music school.
That September day in 2016, a number of fabulous mammies joined me and the chats began. It was easy to be distracted as we talked about the kids, laughed at their antics and soon it was plain to see that I was not the only person struggling. Each week we had new parents join us and before long, we had a little community; this community became my village. I realised I was looking forward to each week, each meet up with excitement. The conversations were no longer difficult and I was no longer feeling alone. Most importantly, as my daughters due date loomed, the fear and the worry started to dissipate.
It Takes a Village…
The week before Molly was due, I was admitted to hospital with high blood pressure. Having never been away from Tom before, I was an emotional wreck; that week I had nothing but time and my own company and as each hour passed, the guilt over not bonding with this little life inside me overcame me. I cried, told her I was sorry and I grieved. I grieved for my father, for my loss, for myself. I grieved for what could have been. I cried angry tears over how unfair it all was and I begged my Molly for forgiveness. I made a promise to her that I would be the best mammy I could be. Molly was born and I fell in love with her from the very moment she was placed on my chest. We had a tough couple of weeks complicated by jaundice and a week long stay for treatment.
At times I thought I would break but the messages of support from my village helped me more than anyone can ever know. These women are my family, their support endless, their hearts open and there is no judgement. When singing in a group, heartbeats become synchronised. When singing in a group, you are heard, listened to and valued. We have a voice and when we come together, it is truly magical.
Creating New Outlets
Most recently, we were chatting about the importance of making time for ourselves; even though it seems that throughout this past year, there has been nothing but time, we realised that we never took any of it just for us. We decided to start a book club, via zoom. Once the kids were in bed, we once again came together and we talked, really talked, We spoke about ourselves, the kids, our families and of course, we talked about books. We may have indulged in some time appropriate alcoholic beverages as we chatted our woes away (makes a change from vodka cornflakes).
In these uncertain and scary times, we need to look beyond our closed doors and invite people in. We need to take steps for ourselves to practice self care. We need to sit down and escape our worlds, even if it is only for ten minutes.
Take the Step
So I challenge you, pick up a book, start a zoom group, meet for a walk…get out there and don’t let the life get sucked out of you. Covid has taken so much from us and as the one year anniversary of the first lockdown has passed, we need to look ahead with positivity. We have learned that we can maintain relationships if we think outside the box. If we make the effort and though at times, it feels like it is too hard, push ahead and just do it. Pick up the phone and start talking. We are all feeling the same way….we may not be in the same boat but we are in the same storm.
We are not alone
For anyone who is reading this; if the issues I mentioned resonate with you, please don’t suffer in silence. There is no shame in not feeling ok; it took me a long time to understand that it is normal to not be perfect or anything that closely resembles perfect. It is courageous to seek help and taking medication is not something which should hold any shame. Anxiety and depression is something I am still learning to manage but opening up, reaching out was like day and night….nothing was as bad as feeling alone and it will get better. It has gotten better. When I opened up about my crippling anxiety, I was deeply moved by the support I received but alarmed by the amount of messages that came through my inbox from people who were struggling silently. We can only break down the barriers if we keep the conversation going around mental health.